Over the last four months, my little family has been dealing with a serious, real life nightmare! I don’t want to go into details (long story short, it all stemmed from my mother’s hatred of my partner’s love for me and my children, and the jealousy his devotion to us gave her) but, I do want to address the underlying problem that caused this nightmare: toxic families. My mother has a serious mental illness that has gone untreated for years. Though it wasn’t bad at first, and I’m not saying everyone with a mental illness is toxic, she did things stemming from her mental illness that can never be taken back. And it has hurt my children more than anyone.
I dealt with my mom’s illness for a very long time. I do love her, even now after all she has done, and I accept her for exactly who she is. I realize that I felt guilty thinking about cutting her from our life over the years. She was grandma, and my children deserved to have extended family. I felt like they needed those memories of going to grandma’s house and holidays with a bunch of people crowding the kitchen talking and being merry. And, yes, my kids do deserve those things. But in reality, my family just couldn’t meet those expectations I had set. My mom couldn’t change who she was any more than I wanted her to. She is a bad person and though her mental illness prevents her from thinking clearly, it was ultimately her choice to do the things she has done to hurt me and my family.
To add fuel to this fire she has started, I have learned that her choices have gone so far as to turn the opinions of my grandparents, my brother, and the little bit of extended family I have left. She has isolated me because she wanted to control me. My family has done things that cannot be reversed now. Most of them have not reached out to even check on us, or hear our side of the situation. I guess in a way I should be thanking my mother for showing the family’s true colors.
So where has that left me? I have been forced to make a very difficult decision on whether cutting my mother from our life is what is best for the happiness of my family. The answer is yes! I thought that a toxic family wasn’t an excuse for writing them off, but I was wrong. It is a very good reason. Sure, everyone has a drunk uncle or an aunt that tries to kiss you on the mouth instead of the cheek (yuck!), but families that actively find ways to discourage you or make you feel “less than…” are simply toxic and need to be removed for your emotional health.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t love them! That was my youngest daughter’s biggest struggle; the idea that if you cut grandma from your life you can’t love her anymore. And, in a way, I felt like that too. And it’s just not true. You can still love that toxic family member and honor them for their good qualities (my mom has many good qualities) but you don’t have to keep them around to do that. My mom controlled me like that longer than I like to admit. She was able to fuel my guilt for wanting to leave by turning on her positive attributes and making me want to forget the bad stuff. But, if I wouldn’t put up with that in a relationship, why would I put up with that from my own mother? If I wouldn’t let a man tell me that he is the only one that can love me, why would I listen to her? I have learned that toxic relationships are toxic relationships. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, significant other, co-worker, or family.
So, what should you do if you realize you have a toxic family member, or even a whole family? Let them go. Love them from afar. It will be ok! I miss my brother and my grandpa more than anything. But I shouldn’t have to put up with the abuse and manipulation of my mother to be around them. It really has been a lonely, rocky road we have travelled in four months. But I realize now that it’s worth it. I realize I’m not cutting them out, I’m letting them go. I deserve happiness, love, encouragement, and fulfillment in my life. And if they don’t want that for me then they don’t deserve my presence. I know how hard it must be to accept your family member is toxic, especially if it is a parent. But you are hurting yourself by holding on. You deserve so much more out of this world than to be mistreated simply out of obligation to blood. Your children may hate you for a time if they are already used to that family member, but they will get over it, and eventually understand. But if you stay, your kids will see the abuse and think that is normal or acceptable. A toxic family member is an abusive family member. I’m sorry if that is too much truth. But the sooner you accept that and let go, the better off you will be.
Not sure if you have a toxic family member? Check out 11 Signs That You Have a Toxic Family. This is one of the articles that has helped me get through this nightmare and see things truly for the first time. Another great article is Removing Toxic People from Your Life. It talks about boundaries with family rather than giving them the snip. If you have a story of a toxic family member, I would love to hear it! Tell us what you’ve gone through and how you overcame! How has it been working for you? Your story can help someone that might be going through the same thing and not know what to do.
Update: Through counseling, I learned that my mother has a narcissistic personality and that narcissistic abuse is a real thing that hundreds of people suffer from and survived. It has been freeing to put a real name to her problem and what I went through as a child and young adult. Of course, I did a bunch of research and found this book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough; Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. I just started reading it, but I can safely say that it is worth it! I strongly suggest picking it up if you have dealt with a parent that never saw you as good enough, or tried to put their feelings and needs above your own.
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